Many years ago, I had the privilege of sitting under the teaching of a wise, experienced missionary who had seen the Lord use him and his family to bring the gospel to another culture and witnessed the birth of the Church in the people group he worked with.
One of the main issues this sage spoke of was that of "syncretism" which is "A blending of religious beliefs and practices from the cultural context..." or "...the interworking of two or more cultural perspectives into one system."
In this gentleman's experience, this issue of syncretism was one of the more daunting challenges to planting strong churches in this foreign land. You see, the people had a tendency (as do all people it turns out) to combine the new information they were learning about Jesus with their existing, animistic beliefs, with some scattered religious ideas left over from past missionaries also thrown in here and there. His ultimate conclusion? The Gospel Message and the truths of scripture must replace the existing beliefs of the culture or they will result in a new, albeit counter-biblical or extra-biblical worldview.
Since those days, I have come to see some of my own syncretistic tendencies in how I think, etc. Over many years, and continuing to this day I've been challenged to answer the question "What about what I believe is really from a scriptural worldview?" Turns out, much of what I had been taught and always believed was from American culture and NOT from the culture of the Holy Spirit of God as I see in scripture.
This is where some might find my comments to be offensive.
As the scales continue to fall off, it's becoming apparent to me that "Christians" in this country have syncretised the gospel message with the social, political and even religious values and ideals that have existed in America since it's birth as a nation. Since this is not biblical "Christianity" as described in the book of Acts, I find myself calling this combination of belief systems "Democrianity". I choose this word because "democracy" is just one of those values that many in this country hold in as much esteem as faith in Jesus.
I need to be careful here to say that I don't necessarily find some of these American ideals and values to be particularly troublesome or ungodly, however, when mixed with the scriptural message of redemption - a message that transcends all generations and all cultures - a dangerous new mix emerges.
I think it's safe to say that a growing number of Americans are rejecting what they perceive to be "Christianity" because they're finding it to be so desperately lacking in real spiritual value. They should be! What we've seen lived out before us is not the life of Christ described in the scriptures, but an amalgamation of biblical ethics, political ideals, and ethno-centric beliefs that ultimately emasculate the scriptural message of redemption and wreak havoc on the witness of the Church! That's not to mention the sheer propaganda that is hurled at the American public for the sake of getting support for actions that stand totally opposed to the character of Christ.
I've got a lot to say about this topic, so my next several blogs will be devoted to fleshing out some of the myriad ways I see this syncretism occurring right before our eyes. Stay tuned! In the meantime, seek the Lord about what beliefs you might have "merged" with the gospel message!